Originally created 12/07/00

Analysts foresee lag in local employment



The Augusta-Aiken metropolitan area, whose growth rate typically lags behind the rest of the state, will grow at an even slower rate in 2001 than it did this year.

The city still will be in positive territory, economic forecasters predict, although they expect employment growth to be less than 2 percent in 2001, down from 2.4 percent this year.

"New jobs will be broadly distributed across economic sectors, but will grow fastest in services, telecommunications and transportation," according to the report released by the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth.

The university predicts job growth will slow to 1.7 percent. Georgia State University's forecast is closer to 1.5 percent.

Both agree, however, that the slowing national economy will result in weaker demand for durable goods, such as those produced at area manufacturing facilities that include vending machine maker Dixie-Narco, tractor producer John Deere and golf cart manufacturers E-Z-GO and Club Car.

Stronger sectors probably will be nondurables, specifically paper-product producers and chemical companies, because the demand for those products does not ebb and flow with consumer spending.

"It's a world economy," said Pete Brodie, spokesman for PCS Nitrogen, whose Augusta plant sells chemicals to everyone from Georgia-Pacific to Ukrainian farmers. "We don't have all of our eggs in one basket."

Jennifer Bowen, spokeswoman for MAU Inc., one of the area's largest employment services companies, said industrial employment demand has been strong for paper and chemicals positions and also for skilled laborers, such as welders and machinists.

"Those people have been in serious demand," she said.

Augusta is a manufacturing-heavy city, with nearly 20 percent employed in production positions, according to University of Georgia statistics.

However, Mrs. Bowen said, demand for clerical positions, especially at financial services companies, has been extraordinarily high.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or bized@augustachronicle.com.